BT's £5.9bn rights issue kicked in yesterday, but observers were more interested in the telco's top two German mobile phone executives kicking themselves out of a job, and BT's steadily declining share price.
Both Maximilian Ardelt, chief executive, and Hans-Burghardt Ziermann, chief operating officer, quit loss-making German telco Viag Interkom, reportedly due to clashes over how much control BT should have.
Customers on contract spend just £330 a year with Viag, compared with an average £525 at Cellnet, BT's UK mobile phone business. Viag made an operating loss of £277m last year.
The executive departures come less than two weeks after BT was forced to take a £3bn charge against the value of the network, causing it to make a £1bn loss for the financial year.
BT has denied a rift, pitching it as part of a reshuffle ahead of plans to create a separate company for its mobile networks in the UK, Ireland, Germany and The Netherlands. Ardelt will continue to act as an adviser on regulation, politics and the competitive environment in Germany.
Earlier this year, BT paid £5.6bn to take full control of Viag. Its German third-generation (3G) licence cost Viag another £5.2bn, and BT expects to spend another £6bn to £10bn operating 3G networks in the UK, Germany and The Netherlands over the next five years.
Against this background of future costs, and a debt total of around £28bn, BT investors could yesterday cash in their right to buy three new shares for every 10 they own at the discounted price of 300p.
Shares were trading at around 460p this morning, but it is thought that BT's 1.8 million small shareholders may be unwilling to exercise their options, leaving City institutions to meet the difference.
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